Canine tear stains, which appear as red or brown streaks running down the inner corners of your dog's eyes, can be unsightly -- and they can be indicative of possible eye problems. Although certain breeds are prone to tear-staining around the eyes, tearing is never considered a completely normal condition. Once you have taken your dog to a veterinarian to rule out any medical causes, you can take steps to remove the stains and prevent them in the future.
Excessive tearing, also called epiphora, has a number of causes, including blocked tear ducts, small tear-duct openings, abnormal tear production and continuous eye irritation. These excess tears build up and overflow over the corners of the eyes, usually the inner corners, irritating and wetting the skin of the dog's face. The moisture on the fur caused by the excess tears can breed yeast and bacteria, leading to staining of the fur around the eyes. The tears themselves also contain pigmentlike chemicals called porphyrins, which contribute to these stains, according to PetPlace.com. If you notice chronic staining of your dog's eyes, take him to a veterinarian to determine if surgery or another treatment is necessary to correct a problem with his eyelids or tear ducts.
Oral antibiotics such as tetracycline and tylosin can help prevent tear stains, but you can't administer them to your dog for long periods of time. These medications change the chemical makeup of the tears so they cause less irritation to the skin of the face, reducing stains and bacterial buildup. Unfortunately, the prolonged use of these drugs can cause liver disease and the development of drug-resistant bacteria, cautions WebMD. Once a medical cause is determined for the tear stains, simply wiping the dog's eyes one to two times daily with a warm, damp washcloth can help prevent and eliminate stains. After wiping, dry the face with a separate towel to prevent the formation of stains from bacteria and yeast.
You can find liquid cleansers, shampoos and premoistened pet wipes in your local pet supply store that are made specifically to remove stubborn stains around your dog's eyes. These formulations usually contain a bleaching agent, such as hydrogen peroxide, to whiten the area and to kill bacteria and yeast.
You can also make a paste of cornstarch mixed with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to apply to the stains around your dog's eyes. Allow this mixture to dry -- you can leave it on overnight -- before wiping it away with a washcloth dampened with lukewarm water, avoiding your dog's eye area.
Make a daily eye wash by combining 1 tbsp. of boric acid powder with 1 cup of boiling water. Once the solution has cooled, use the solution to clean the area around the eyes with a cotton swab. Refrigerate the cleaner and replace it weekly.
Considerations and Warnings
When cleaning the area around your dog's eyes, avoid getting any chemicals in the eyes, which can irritate them. Apply a small amount of petroleum ophthalmic ointment inside the dog's eyes to help prevent any cleansers from getting into them prior to cleansing. Avoid using chlorine bleach or solutions containing it, which can irritate and damage the eyes. To change the chemical composition and staining potential of a dog's tears, you can give him half of a calcium carbonate tablet daily. Choose an eye cleaner that does not irritate your dog's eyes and contains a conditioning agent, as the cleansing ingredients may be drying to the dog's hair. After washing your dog's face, always dry the face completely to prevent residual moisture from allowing bacteria or yeast to flourish.
- Tearful dog image by BorisNoWorries from Fotolia.com